A visit to the Batu Caves

Batu Caves is undeniably amongst the top 10 attractions in Kuala Lumpur as quoted in most, if not all travel guide references. The caves are 400 million years old, situated in a natural limestone hill. In the 1800s, the caves became a place of worship for the Hindus, with the largest cave being the Temple Cave. It takes a climb of 272 steps to reach the Temple Cave, where the ceiling of the cave is more than 100m above the ground illuminated by sunlight that shines through openings at the top of the cave.

the golden statue of Lord Murugan stands tall at 42.7m at the foot of the steps to the cave, making it the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world

We made a visit to Batu Caves last weekend, which coincided with the 2nd day of Deepavali, the festival of lights celebrated by Hindus. There were a fair number of Hindus dressed up in their new colourful Deepavali outfits, but of course the place was nowhere near as crowded as during the Thaipusam Festival when there are over 800,000 people gathered to celebrate the official festival dedicated to Lord Murugan. At the entrance, we were greeted by pigeons at the square. At one side of the square, there are flower stalls set up where devotees can buy flowers as offerings to Lord Murugan.

 

Monkeys are seen everywhere along the walk up to the cave. They move at incredible speed, swinging from tree to tree, jumping from one lamp post to another, and down and up the railing and steps. In constant search for food, the monkeys can be aggresive to visitors especially in attempt to grab a drink can or anything that looks edible to them.

 Finally at the 272nd step, we arrive at a landing to the entrance of the cave, where a shrine of Lord Murugan glitters under the sunlight. From here, we can observe the sunlight shining through the cave, creating a breathtaking effect on the natural limestone formation of stalactites and stalagmites. With the varied light distribution in the cave, I experimented with shooting with different metering settings. The shots with the sky in view were taken in spot metering mode, focusing on a light-to-medium shade of the inner cave walls; whilst the shots with varied lighting within the cave (but without the sky in the frame), were taken with center-weighted metering.

 

The main temple in the cave is where prayer ceremonies are conducted to the sound of musical instruments. A half coconut and a banana, representing vasanas (human desires) are usually offered during prayers.

 As the sun starts to set, we make our way out and down the stairs. There is still a steady stream of visitors strolling in as the evening gets cooler. Outside, the stalls set up by street vendors are still open, selling souvenirs.

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